England captain Joe Root credited the team’s Head Coach Trevor Bayliss and his deputy Paul Farbrace for their first series win in Sri Lanka in 17 years. England lead the three match Test series 2-0 and head into Friday’s final game at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club ground hoping for a 3-0 whitewash.
Both Bayliss and Farbrace had been Sri Lanka’s Head Coaches during the last decade and Root admitted that the duo’s knowledge on local conditions was quite handful.
“They’ve been brilliant and very knowledgeable about the different grounds and how they’ve historically played, what they’ve seen with their time here in Sri Lanka and they have an insight into several of their players. So they’ve been brilliant in getting us well prepared for this tour. They’ve been a big driving force in where we’ve got to, really. Be great to have that experience and know-how in these conditions,” Root, Man of the Match after his team sealed the series with a 57 run win at Pallekele, told journalists.
Sri Lanka have been a tough force at home and only two teams – Australia in 2004 and India in 2017 have won here 3-0.
“There's only been two other sides who have won 3-0 out here in Test cricket so it would be a brilliant achievement which would fill us with a huge amount of confidence going into the rest of the winter,” Root added.
The England captain confirmed that the tourists will do two changes to the side that won in Pallekele. James Anderson will be rested with Stuart Broad playing the dead rubber while Sam Curran, who is nursing a side strain will be replaced by Jonny Bairstow, strengthening their batting further.
Bairstow will bat at number three further strengthening England’s batting.
Irrespective of the result of the game, England will move to number two of the ICC Rankings in Test cricket ahead of third placed South Africa. Sri Lanka will slip down to number seven from the current position of sixth.
Sri Lanka have all sorts of problems with skipper Dinesh Chandimal ruled out of the game with a groin strain. Chandimal, who turned 29 last week hurt his groin during the first Test in Galle, which Sri Lanka lost by 211 runs. He didn’t feature in the second Test but was expected to make a comeback in Colombo. But a fitness test on Tuesday ruled him out.
The hosts have brought in top order batsman Danushka Gunathilaka into the squad. He is expected to replace Kaushal Silva, who has notched up just 41 runs in four innings having made a comeback in this series after a lapse of one year.
Sri Lanka will also not have the services of off-spinner Akila Dananjaya, who was made to undergo testing in Brisbane, Australia, after his bowling was reported as suspect by match officials. Nishan Peiris, a 21-year-old off-spinner has been drafted into the squad, but left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan, who has been in the original squad is expected to play.
“We’re missing Rangana Herath and Akila Dananjaya. They are the ones who bowled really well in the last three or four matches. That’s a big loss, but we’ve got two options. I trust we’ll be able to cover that loss with the replacement player,” Lakmal added.
Lakmal backed the under pressure Kusal Mendis, who has fallen for some poor shots in the series. “Dinesh Chandimal is out and a lot of the batsmen don’t have much experience. He was among the runs until recently - it’s only in the last six or seven games that he’s failed. Mendis is a valuable player both now and into the future,” Lakmal went onto say.
Sri Lanka: Suranga Lakmal (Captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Niroshan Dickwella, Dushmantha Chameera, Danushka Gunathilaka and Nishan Peiris.
England: Joe Root(Captain), Keaton Jennings, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, James Anderson, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Joe Denly, Olly Stone, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Rory Burns and Ben Foakes.
Umpires: Ravi Sundaram (IND)and Chris Gaffaney (NZ)
Third Umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA)
Match Referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)